The Fall Trout Bite Has Begun

You may have heard that the best day to go fishing is any day you can get on the water. I tend to agree. When I recently looked at my calendar, I saw that I have something to do every Saturday until Thanksgiving! AND I have to have oral surgery the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so I’ll be out of pocket for about 2 weeks after that. SOOOO, when I saw that I had this past Saturday off (no I didn’t have to judge second round of all-state auditions), I couldn’t pass up the chance.

We had a late, out-of-town football game Friday that put me back home at 11 PM and in bed by 11:30. When I woke up at 4 AM, I though that it would take an extra shot of coffee to get me moving. It’s funny that at my age, I have to forego the second cup just because I know I won’t be able to make it to the launch without having to stop for a bathroom 🙂 Well, the excitement of knowing that we finally got a cool front down here and the wind was forecast to be 5-10 for most of the morning was all the “caffeine” I needed. I arrived at my combat launch around 6:45 and was casting a deer hair popper in glass-flat water by 7. The water was still high because of Hurricane Michael and to top that off we had an unusually large tidal range predicted for this weekend. The water wasn’t dirty but it wasn’t clear either. The tide was predicted to start falling early on but the wind was also forecast to pick up to 10-12 mph around mid morning.

I got a huge blowup early on by an inquisitive redfish that didn’t result in a hookup. After about 45 minutes of no more inquisitive fish, I decided to paddle over to my “trout” spot. I didn’t get any trout to investigate my popper but I did notice some tiny shrimp leaping out of the water. I switched over to a pink Lafleur’s Charlie under a VOSI and the action started. I did bring my ice chest and planned to keep some trout for my freezer (I’m currently out of trout). I probably caught about a dozen by 8:15. I only kept those that were 14 inches or better so I threw back a lot of 12-inch trout. Anyway the bite slowed down and I did some exploring for redfish. I figured I might get lucky and find some clear water but that didn’t happen. I thought I might find some tails in some shallow back water areas but they were void of any redfish. I did manage to catch a couple nice redfish while I was fishing for trout. The redfish were not on the grass bank. They were about 6 or 7 feet off the bank in moving water. I probably could have caught more but I needed to get back to Baton Rouge for the LSU football game, so I called it a day around 1. Anyway, my ice chest (Yeti knockoff that’s made by Jackson Kayak and isn’t very big) was full. I kept the two redfish (21 and 23 inches) and 8 trout (largest measured 16.5). My battery on my GoPro died but I did get some pictures.

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This 21 inch redfish ate the pink Lafleur’s Charlie. IMG_2966.jpg
My largest trout of the morning at 16.5
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And my largest redfish at 23.

I might have to sneak out on a Sunday if the weather allows me another opportunity before Thanksgiving 🙂

 

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Can old worn out poppers be refurbished?

One of the many blessings my dad taught me was never to waste anything. Now, I know my mom is going to read this and say that she taught me this too, but I can still remember dad stopping on the side of the road to pick up an aluminum can to recycle it. He would collect bags and bags of cans and bring them to a recycle facility for cash. I guess that is the result of being born during the middle of the Great Depression and living through the effects of World War II.

So, the question arises: “Should I just throw away a deer hair popper once it has been worn out by hungry fish or should I just cut away the worn out and faded deer hair and refurbish the popper?”  I decided to retire a certain “fire tiger” pattern popper from a recent trip. This popper probably caught over 35 bass. Now, I know you think I’m just bragging but honestly, this popper was responsible for the catch and release of over 35 bass over the past three or four months. IMG_2932

I actually think I tried to refurbish the head (notice the extra glue). So I decided I would try to refurbish the popper since the hook is still very sharp. I used an old pair of scissors to remove most of the deer hair and then I cleaned it up with a worn razor blade.

I added a few more hackles for the tail, a fresh yellow marabou, and then I added fresh deer belly hair. He is what I ended up with:

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While it didn’t end up exactly like the original, I really don’t think the fish will notice and I should be able to catch another 30 or so bass on this refurbished popper.

Bass Therapy (Fall Bass Fishing is Heating Up)

After a long weary couple of weeks of work, I was looking for a morning to relax and unwind. A trip to my favorite bass pond/lake was just “what the doctor ordered.”  The last couple of trips I’ve made there proved to be touch catching. The water temperature was pushing 87 degrees and the big bass were quite lethargic. However, I’ve noticed a steady drop in the water temperature in the pool at my house and I figured the same was happening to the local water too.

I arrived at my launch spot and took a water temperature reading. Bingo! 81 degrees. The morning was predicted to be overcast all day with a chance of showers later (yes, it actually does rain in Tiger Stadium folks). On my second cast I was hooked up to a sizable fish but I lost it after a short fight. I then proceeded to miss a few more small fish until I hooked a nice 15 inch bass that pulled me around like a redfish. The fight was strong in this fish and I knew that it signaled that the fish were getting stronger and they would be chasing bait.GOPR3953.jpg

I continued to work the bank and I started landing a bunch of “school bass” that were between 10 and 12 inches long. I saw the owner later and he told me that they stocked the lake with bluegill this past spring the bass have been gorging themselves on baby bluegill. He actually insists that I keep all fish under 15 inches but I just didn’t feel like cleaning fish today.

I did manage to catch a few more fish over 15 inches but the bulk of the fish were those fun little ones that were slamming bait in the shallows. I used two variations of deer hair poppers, a regular fire tiger pattern and a frog pattern that was still in the fire tiger color scheme. I also tried a crease fly but to be honest, I’ve fallen out of favor with my crease flies. They tend to catch wind and twist my tippet. I find that I loose more fish on them too. I don’t know if it’s because they are so light that a bass will slam them and end up knocking it out of the water. I do know that I end up hooking more bass on deer hair bugs. This next sure made me a believer 🙂 GOPR3959.jpg

I finally figured the big guys had worked their way into deeper water and I tied on a Coma Cockaho. I began fishing about 10 feet off the bank and I tied into one of the larger fish of the day. GOPR3962.jpg

I put together a short (under 4 minutes) video with some the action I enjoyed today. I love seeing bass hit topwater and I was able to capture some of that topwater action. on the video. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfWHrk1pvCU

 

The Cajun Permit

There are few people who will argue that the permit, AKA the “Grey Ghost,” is one of the most difficult salt water fish to catch on a fly rod. To actually catch and land one of those is indeed an accomplishment any fly fisherman would be proud of. While we don’t have permit stalking the Louisiana flats, we do have one adversary that is every bit as elusive as the the permit. Ours wears prison stripes and has teeth that  basically look like human teeth. It’s the sheepshead, AKA…the “Cajun Permit.”

While sheepshead may be easy to catch around docks with market shrimp, they are very difficult to catch on a fly rod. First of all, it isn’t easy getting them to chase an artificial bait or fly. Now, I know many people have caught them on artificial and even flies but there are several factors that really make catching this fish on flies even more challenging. First, there are those big eyes. They have good eyesight and are known to feed in very shallow water on shrimp, baby crabs, and other crustaceans (that’s why they have those crushing teeth). They also tend to turn a little on their side while they are feeding which gives them a good vision of their surroundings. So, one must be very stealthy just to get a cast to a feeding sheepshead without spooking it. Another challenge is, well…those teeth. It is extremely hard to get a good hook set with a small fly hook with all those teeth.  The only real chance a fly fisherman has it to get a hook in the fleshy side of the mouth. 7314923468_3bc028cf7f_z-1.jpg

A third reason they are so hard to catch on the fly rod, I think, personally is because they have good noses too and are looking for bait that smells like bait. My flies do not smell like bait 🙂

Over the years, I think I have caught 2 sheepshead on flies. I have, however, watched them follow a fly for several feet, only to stop and turn away. Usually, I’m fishing for redfish when I spot one of those toothy critters and I offer it the same fly I’m using for redfish, which is a gold spoon fly. I have fished a couple of fly fishing tournaments where there has been a special sheepshead pot. Frankly, I haven’t even bothered because I just haven’t been lucky.

Well, that changed this past Saturday. I finally made it down to the marsh to do some fishing. It’s been since late May since I’ve had a good opportunity (good weather, good health, light winds, no work or family-related obligations) to get down to the beautiful Louisiana marsh that I love so dearly. Allow me to pause here to explain why I love our estuary so much. (WARNING: HERE COMES MY SHORT RANT!!)

I don’t only love it only for the fact that we have the best estuary for gamefish, and edible seafood. There is a beauty that envelopes our delta that many people down here, sadly don’t see. They drive down winding roads with beautiful live oaks draped with Spanish moss daily, yet they don’t “see” it. They sadly, fish our marshes and don’t stop to see the beauty this it possesses, and even worse…they use it as their own personal dumping ground. I’ve visited Colorado, Oregon, and Arizona during the past two years and you just don’t see all the trash. It not only saddens me but it makes me sick in my stomach to see the trash along our waterways. OK rant is over.

Here are some pictures I took yesterday of some of the beauty I witnessed:IMG_2871.jpg
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These pictures were taken with a camera phone and really don’t do the subject matter justice, but I think you get the picture (pardon the pun).

OK, so back to my sheepshead story…I arrived at my fishing destination to find that the water was still very high due to the recent tropical system that entered the coast to our east. Additionally, we were experiencing a very high incoming tide Saturday, so conditions were not favorable for site fishing. Places that normally hold a foot or two of water were 3 – 4 feet deep. Add to that the fact that the water clarity wasn’t good and you can see that I had a long day push-poling through the marsh and didn’t get many chances to cast at many redfish. I did manage to catch a couple small ones by blind casting GOPR3951.jpgGOPR3944.jpg

It was getting to be about noon, when I came across a patch of grassy flats that was what I call, “sheepshead rich.” I spooked several nice ones and made a couple casts to others only to watch them chase my spoon fly down and then refuse it. I was determined this time to catch one of these “cajun permit.”  I quickly grabbed my other rod and snipped off the popper I had tied on it. By the way, I had two redfish attack that popper earlier in the day but I couldn’t get a hook-set on either one of them. I tied on a merkin-style crab that I had tied for such an occasion.IMG_2869.jpg

So I poled my way back to my “sheepshead rich” environment and saw two big ones working the edge. I put a good cast between the two of them (about a foot and a half in front of them) and watched as they both moved in to investigate. If you look at my fly you will notice that is has several sets of rubber legs. I let the fly come to rest on the bottom and watched the rubber legs tease one so much it just couldn’t keep its teeth off it. It picked up the fly in its mouth and kind of shook its head like a shark would if it had grabbed a chunk of meat. I strip-set the hook and the darned thing took off like a rocket! It made one or two more big runs and then seemed to kind of give up. I was determined not to loose it so I took my time and played it just right. Finally, I played it right into my landing net. Mission accomplished! GOPR3947.jpg

In hindsight, I wish I would have weighed and measured it because I think it’s my largest sheepshead to date on my fly rod. It felt like it was every bit of five pounds and it also reminded me why it’s NOT a good idea to wear sandals in a kayak because one of those big dorsal fins found its way into my big toe 😦

I released itGOPR3949.jpg
and poled around the area a couple more times to see if I could catch another one. I got one or two more casts off but was rejected, so I tied on a shrimp imitation. I guess all the commotion that fish created and my poling around the place was too much for the fish so I didn’t get another chance at a sheepshead. I explored more water for about another hour and decided that I had had enough for one day. I was able to drive to Thibodaux to visit with my mom and dad for a few hours and then visit my mother-in-law too, so it was a perfect day! It’s not quite on just yet but in four to six weeks, the weather will cool down and the fishing will get hot! I’m looking forward to getting back out there and experiencing what our South Louisiana waters have to offer again.

After I published this, I checked out some of my old pictures to see if this was indeed my largest sheepshead. Come to find out, I have caught several and 2013 was my most productive year.

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This is a small one that ate a spoon fly in the winter.100_0086_2.jpg
Here is one from a different trip the same year.GOPR0293.jpg
Another Leeville sheepshead caught in 2013 on a spoon fly.GOPR3059.jpgGOPR0156.jpg
Well, either way, I’ve got to give my spoon fly more credit than I did. All those other fish were caught on a spoon fly.

 

My first purely decorative deer hair bug.

So, I put a teaser out there yesterday when I said I’d be posting about what I did when I couldn’t fish this past weekend. I’ve been looking at punk rock poppers and other patterns and I finally settled on a mahi mahi pattern that I saw somewhere on the internet. I actually caught my first mahi mahi on a fly rod this summer and it was a hoot.

So, I sat down and tied this articulated mahi mahi. IMG_2820.jpg

Like I said, It’s my first purely decorative one. Honestly, it took way too long to finish but it was fun. I have enough practical flies for fishing in my box. 🙂 I will be tying at a conclave/expo in New Orleans in April and will donate some flies for Casting for the Cure. I may donate this one or I just may have to tie another one just to prove to myself I can replicate this one. I see areas where I need to improve (like making a better taper in the tail).  Someone asked how did I do the dorsal fin. It’s a peacock sword. I used a very fine wood burning tool to burn a like in the back and then I glued the sword in place using Fabri-fix.

 

Bluegill save the day!

I haven’t posted here in a while. School has started and is going full blast. I graduated some very talented seniors last year and I’m hustling to get this year’s group up to speed. In fact, we had a gig today…after only one week of school. They did get to meet this guy, who graciously took a picture with them. IMG_2815.jpg

Anyway, enough of work. Since my wife was out of town this weekend and my son was working at the hunting camp, I found myself in a spot to do some fishing. I looked at the weather and I felt it was too much hassle to drive 2 and a half hours down to the marsh only to have to fight thunder storms all day. So, I started the morning off in my neighborhood lake. I’m telling you this heat has the bass sitting on the bottom somewhere where the water is cooler. I even saw schools of shad feeding on foam on top and not a single one got eaten (at least while I was observing them) by a bass. I didn’t get a hit. So I switched to a hare’s ear nymph and proceeded to catch a dozen bluegill. Some were real beefy, which made it a lot of fun on my 3 wt.IMG_2811.jpg

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Anyway. Here’s looking forward to some cooler temperatures. Football season starts this Friday, so any early Saturday fishing will have to be done with 2 cups of coffee instead of one. 🙂

I did spend some time during the rain working on a new fly project. I’ll be posting a picture here soon. I’ve got to get a good quality photo of it. I’ll give you a hint: This one will never see the water and I’ll probably donate it to a charitable raffle in the future.

You’re Once, Twice, Three Times a…what?

I just couldn’t resit the temptation to quote a famous song from Lionel Richie but I’ve noticed that for the most part; when I decide to try a new fly pattern, it takes me about three attempts before I “get it right.” That means three times to get my length right, three times to get the proportions right, and everything else that makes a fly attract fish and get them to eat. That goes for most flies I’ve tied, from clouser minnows to fluff butts to crab patterns and wooly buggers too.

Most of you who read this blog know that as of late, I have mainly been spinning and stacking deer hair to make poppers and frog imitations. For the most part, the same rule has applied to my poppers. It’s just I don’t always get the picture of my “first” attempt. In case you haven’t seen them, here are a few of my successfully-tied deer hair poppers.

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The good thing about deer hair is, if I am not totally pleased with my end result, I can just take the razor blade and completely give it a scalping and start over. Now, there have been exceptions to my “three times” theory…like for my first mouse fly: IMG_2687.jpg
My first baby birdIMG_2481.jpg

and my first frog imitation IMG_2691.jpg
where I actually got it pretty darned good the first time I tried the pattern.

That brings me to a variation of the deer hair popper that has been quite frankly, elusive to me, the Dahlberg Diver. Up until now, I haven’t tied them simply because I don’t fish divers very much. I love the topwater bite and the frog imitations and straight-up poppers have provided me with all the action I can afford. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t  try new variations and color patterns. So I decided to try the Dahlberg Diver. I researched the internet for various color patterns and even looked at a couple video “how tos” for some inspiration. Well, I have to admit. I nearly gave up tying divers all together. I wish I would have taken a picture of the monstrosities that I came up with. They were so badly proportioned and I even had two tries where I cut my tying thread while trimming the thing and then had to cut everything else off and start over. Finally, after what was probably my fifth attempt, I got it right.IMG_2684.jpg

I ended up tying two of those in the same color scheme before I figured I had it licked. IMG_2713.jpg

Then I played around with a couple different color schemes. IMG_2702.jpg
ChartreuseIMG_2716.jpg
And Fire Tiger.

In hand, and tied to the end of my fly rod, I am pleased with the results. After photographing and zooming in, I can see where I need to clean up my trimming, but to be honest, the bass will not care! However, with this heat pattern we are in right now, I may have to wait until the fall to give them a try.